Cyborg Cockroaches?

Would you call this animal abuse? I would.

The video above is today’s updated model of this more basic one from 2013:

Cyborg Cockroach Sparks Ethics Debate, Science, October 2013
Does remote-controlled living insect teach students about neuroscience—or turn them into psychopaths?

The newer articles gloss over what’s being done to the animal:

To attach the device to the insect, students are instructed to douse the insect in ice water to “anesthetize” it, sand a patch of shell on its head so that the superglue and electrodes will stick, and then insert a groundwire into the insect’s thorax. Next, they must carefully trim the insect’s antennae, and insert silver electrodes into them. Ultimately, these wires receive electrical impulses from a circuit affixed to the insect’s back.

The notion that the insects aren’t seriously harmed by having body parts cut off is “disingenuous,” says animal behavior scientist Jonathan Balcombe

You could buy a “kit”, cockroach included, for your children:

The company will, for $99, begin shipping live cockroaches across the nation, accompanied by microelectronic hardware and surgical kits geared toward students as young as 10 years old.

But some critics say the project is sending the wrong message. “They encourage amateurs to operate invasively on living organisms” and “encourage thinking of complex living organisms as mere machines or tools.”

The RoboRoach “gives you a way of playing with living things.”

Playing with living things? (The cockroaches apparently feel pain from the shocks given to direct them.)

What is it about some animals that allow us to have fun dismembering and controlling them but not others? Is it size? So, dogs no, birds maybe, cockroaches not a problem? Or is it how human-like they are? So, chimpanzees no, but fish ok? Or maybe there isn’t an ethical filter at all. Maybe any animal will do as a plaything. Pick up a rescue dog and superglue a robosuit onto it, insert a groundwire into its belly, maybe cut off its ears and nose so we can insert electrodes (which is what we do when we cut off antennae*) Then what? After we’re done playing?

* Insect Antennae, Science Learning Hub

Imagine being able to smell your dinner from the other side of a sports field. Insects do this with the pair of antennae on their heads. But insects don’t only use their antennae to smell. They can also use them to feel the surface of an object, sense hot and cold, listen to sounds or detect the movement of air or wind.

Insects have paired antennae so they can smell in stereo.

Electron microscope photo of the tip of an insect antenna. Insect antennae have individual sensilla – the long straw-like structures – which can detect small amounts of scent like sex pheromones.

I wasn’t going to post this because it sounds so morbid but I realized that’s probably why no one talks about it. We need to talk about how we treat living things.

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